For the past several days, 15 ferocious wildfires have been burning across at least 119,032 acres throughout Northern California. The inferno has claimed the lives of at least 10 people, a number that is expected to grow, and has torched over 1,500 homes and businesses. The scenic Wine Country counties of Napa, Sonoma, and Mendocino have been particularly hard hit. After igniting on Sunday night, the fires multiplied quickly due to the pervasive dry conditions in the area and strong winds of up to 50 MPH. In response to the raging flames consuming all in its path, 20,000 people were evacuated, many without much notice, into safer areas.
In Sonoma County, the city of Santa Rosa, with a population of 125,000, has suffered serious damage. Seven of the 10 casualties from the wildfires have occurred in Santa Rosa. “That number’s going to change,” said Sonoma County Sheriff Robert Giordano. Given the ongoing search and rescue operation, “it’s just logical,” he said, that more people trapped by the fire will be found. Local landmarks destroyed by the fires include The Fountaingrove Inn and Round Barn, and sections of the Luther Burbank Center for the Arts. “I’m lucky,” said Santa Rosa Mayor Chris Coursey. “My house is fine. My family is fine. My city is not.”
While Santa Rosa may have endured the most casualties so far, the most powerful fires are burning in Napa County. “I have friends fighting off fires with hoses in the hills, said Alison Crowe, winemaker for Garnet Vineyards & Picket Fence Vineyards in Napa Valley. “Thankfully a lot of my friends got out last night.” Although Crowe has not been ordered to evacuate her home in downtown Napa and the main route out of town remains open, she and her neighbors are concerned. “It’s scary,” Crowe said. “We feel surrounded.”